A book for students and families to bank on
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First-time author Carol Jensen displays her soon-to-be released book “College Financial Aid: Highlighting the Small Print of Student Loans.” The West Union woman hopes the publication will help past, future, and current college students protect or regain their financial independence. (Mike Van Sickle photo)
A book for students and families to bank on
By Mike Van Sickle
‘Tis the season for high school and college counselors to discuss financial aid and student loans with graduating seniors and their families. Any future college student and/or his or her parent(s) who have attempted to interpret pages upon pages of financial aid loan documents are familiar with the confusion and related questions that quickly arise.
A West Union woman recently completed a five-year examination of the student loan process, which included putting the results of the study into her own words over the past year. In January, Carol Jensen will release her recently published book “College Financial Aid: Highlighting the Small Print of Student Loans.”
“My career in banking has given me a front-row seat in watching the financial crisis shift from agriculture to housing to student loans in the past three-plus decades,” said Jensen, who has worked in the banking industry since the 1980s. “By 2007, Iowa was the state with the highest student debt level in the entire U.S. Since that time, Iowa has annually placed in the top six high-debt states. The 2012 Project on Student Debt Report, just released in December 2013, has Iowa as sixth in the nation for high student debt.
“There are more employers who prefer to hire applicants with both college degrees and good credit scores these days. I knew it was time for me to do my part and share what I have learned along the way,” she added. “I hope this book will help past, future, and current students protect or regain their independence and/or avoid being financially reliant on their parents.”
Jensen noted that the foundation for her book began in 2008 when she conducted a doctoral study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to determine how financial aid employees counseled students who borrowed money for college through private (nonfederal) lenders.
“I interviewed college counselors in 12 Midwest states as I was still trying to figure out why people didn’t understand much about the details of any of their college loans,” she reported. “There was a noticeable trend in banking where student loan amounts increased due to higher college costs and a faltering economy, loan defaults were increasing, the job market was declining, and more people had negative-net worth statements due mainly to their college loans (debts exceeding assets).”
Just prior to those interviews, there was an extensive investigation into colleges on whether or not they received financial incentives when they recommended private lenders to students. The concluding investigation resulted in fines for some colleges and employees.
“Since that investigation, I learned from interviewing counselors that families who needed anything more than federal financial aid no longer have a one-stop shop to rely on for financial guidance,” she said.
“College costs were increasing annually and students were now left alone to find private lenders that they thought offered the best private loans for college. They needed to do their homework and find their own private lenders,” she added.
Ironically, it was a royalty check mistakenly mailed to Jensen in 2012 that enabled her to complete her writing for this year’s release of her book.
She explained that after receiving the misdirected payment, she began searching online for the rightful check beneficiary and author, another Carol A. Jensen of San Francisco.
“We now email back and forth, and I looked at that whole experience as one more sign to give some serious thought to writing a book,” she added. “Without Carol’s help, I really believe it would have been a much longer process for me to get this book published.
“I didn’t realize the length of time it takes to jump through all the hoops, and Carol was always there to provide advice or answer questions,” the local first-time author admitted.
If she were to write another book, Jensen said it would most likely be a small booklet to further help students and their parents or guardians prepare for postsecondary education.
“Student aid and loan terminology alone can be scary. It would be a ‘Don’t do this, but instead do that’ type of publication,” she explained.
“College Financial Aid: Highlighting the Small Print of Students Loans” will be available online and at local bookstores in January 2014. Jensen is tentatively planning to host a book signing at the West Union Community Library in February.